Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship

For a Special Issue on

Entrepreneurship and SME management in a world of tensions

Manuscript deadline
01 December 2023

Cover image - Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship

Special Issue Editor(s)

François Labelle, Univerisité du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada
[email protected]

Matthias Pepin, Université Laval, Canada

Étienne St-Jean, Univerisité du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada

Luc K. Audebrand, Université Laval, Canada

Submit an ArticleVisit JournalArticles

Entrepreneurship and SME management in a world of tensions

In the wake of a pandemic that has affected them at various levels, entrepreneurs and SME owner-managers are facing a number of challenges, including labor shortages and the reversal of the age pyramid, environmental changes (climate and biodiversity), the massive arrival of artificial intelligence and digital technologies, and the consequences these are having on the way organizations are developed and managed. Added to these are other challenges that require them to reconcile several logics of action and several expectations of stakeholders with often divergent values.

These transformations often confront them with numerous dualities that are difficult to reconcile, for example: short term-long term, growth-decrease, science-practice; linear-circular; silo-network; economic-social; economic-environmental; local-international. Entrepreneurs and SME owner-managers must learn to live with and manage these tensions (Hahn et al. 2015) and to generate integrative situations that combine perspectives and implement solutions greater than the sum of their parts (Van der Byl, Slawinski and Hahn 2020).

Several entrepreneurial practices integrated into SMEs manage to combine these dualities. These include ambidexterity and paradoxical leadership (Klonek, Volery and Parker 2021). Also, cultural entrepreneurship suggests a hybrid practice that reconciles two worlds often seen as being in contradiction, that of the arts and that of the economy; fair trade links the local with the international; innovation zones combine science (university) with practice; Ecoparks combine linear and circular production. Other experiences can help us reflect on the tensions between economic growth and the decline of other resources, such as the availability of skilled people in certain sectors of activity.

In response to the challenges posed by a more sustainable world, and to develop a body of knowledge aimed at understanding these challenges and imagining solutions enabling SMEs to resolve the underlying tensions, this call for manuscripts invites researchers to publish their work that addresses the tensions experienced by entrepreneurs and SMEs, whether to theorize on these issues or simply present empirical demonstrations related to the theme.

Drawing on the paradox approach (Lewis 2000; Smith and Lewis 2011; Lewis and Smith 2014; Van der Byl and Slawinski 2015; Putnam, Fairhurst and Banghart 2016; Schad et al. 2016; Audebrand 2017; Cunha and Putnam 2019), this call focuses on dualities, tensions, conflicts and their management. This approach focuses on the responses of entrepreneurs and SME managers to the multiple demands to which they must adapt. It also suggests a list of tensions to consider, which, without limiting their scope, helps to structure the specific themes of the special issue. This initial list is drawn up by combining the tensions suggested by Smith and Lewis (2011) and by Hahn et al. (2015), as did Labelle et al. (2016), and aims to stimulate the generation of proposals that would be aligned with the desired aims :

Performance tensions

The plurality of stakeholders who gravitate around organizations implies a diversity of strategies and objectives, reflecting multiple conceptions of what performance is. These different perspectives are likely to lead to tensions, which need to be managed. This is particularly true of hybrid organizations (Doherty, Haugh and Lyon 2014; Audebrand 2017) whose objectives are sometimes difficult to reconcile.

Tensions of allegiance

Individual actors in organizations, and within stakeholders, who gravitate within the organizations' fold, have their own identity and are placed in a situation where several subgroups coexist, each with a particular culture, values, membership and roles (Gonzalez-Loureiro, Sousa and Pinto 2017). These actors may experience tensions between their own values and those of the subgroup, and then between these with the culture and values of other subgroups or the organization (Higgins, Mirza and Drozynska 2013). These tensions can arise during the succession of family SMEs (van Helvert-Beugels, Nordqvist and Flören 2020).

Managerial and governance tensions

More flattened organizational forms are being deployed in SMEs (self-management, opal organization, liberated enterprise, holocracy), sometimes causing tensions between supervision, control, verticality and vigilance on the one hand, and empowerment, laissez-faire, horizontality and trust on the other (Raguseo, Paolucci and Neirotti 2015). These tensions can be expressed in all sectors of activity and in all SMEs experimenting with new management and governance practices (Michaud and Audebrand 2019; Berger-Douce 2021; Michaud and Audebrand 2022).

Dimensional tensions

Entrepreneurs and SMEs need to integrate workers and partners from a variety of cultural backgrounds, social codes and languages. They must also integrate environmental and social aspects into their projects, while at the same time worrying about their financial survival, development and sustainability. We note that SMEs sometimes have to produce more to meet supply chain expectations, while labor is scarce (growth-decline).

Level voltages

Entrepreneurs and SMEs are often linked to larger companies in their value chains, but do not necessarily share the same values and objectives. They may also be linked to institutions with more power or resources than themselves.

Temporal tensions

Entrepreneurs and SMEs are often faced with short-term financial imperatives, whereas innovations and projects are more long-term in nature; they may work in concert with researchers, governmental or para-governmental institutions to innovate, but the rhythms of each are different. Partners of entrepreneurs and SMEs don't always have aligned rhythms when it comes to projects under development. Continuous production is often an ill-adapted rhythm for the entrepreneurs and SMEs involved in these value chains.

In addition to the above types of tensions, several other issues revealing tensions experienced by entrepreneurs or SMEs can be raised and considered relevant to this call for manuscripts (e.g. spatial tensions, circular-linear, innovation-standardization, causation-effectuation, etc.). What is important, first and foremost, is that the work makes an important theoretical and managerial contribution to understanding the phenomenon of tensions experienced by entrepreneurs or SMEs, and the means by which these actors can manage them.

Submission Instructions

Please submit a manuscript proposition (1000 words) by 30th September 2023.


  • Full manuscript: 1 December 2023
  • Returns from first revision: early February 2024
  • Revised texts: beginning of April 2024
  • Acceptance/rejection or minor revisions: end of May 2024
  • Final adjustments and submission: July 2024

Proposals should be submitted to François Labelle at: [email protected]

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article